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Solomon Islands

Solomons PM in unprecedented power grab

The Solomon Islands parliament has the tough task of deciding whether to delay the general election by a year or to have it in 2023.

The Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has proposed that the election be delayed by a year because the nation is set to host the 2023 Pacific Games and it does not have enough finances to host two major events in the same year.

If the proposal is accepted then there would be amendments made to the constitution of the Solomon Islands to allow the postponement.

However the move has created outrage from the Opposition and many other bodies who have labelled this as another effort by Sogavare to stay in power for another year despite growing calls for him to step down.

The general elections in the Solomon Islands are supposed to take place in April next year and the Pacific Games are set to take place from November 19 to December 1.

“The Government is only proposing to defer the general elections to be held after the 2023 Pacific Games,” Mr Sogavare said during 44th Independence Day celebrations.

“The reason for the deferral is that we do not have enough funds to conduct two events in the same year.

The Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has proposed that the election be delayed by a year. Picture: SPC

“The 2023 Pacific games will cost between SBD400 million (US$49 million) and SBD450 million (US$55 million).”

Mr Sogovare said to host both the events a significant amount of the workforce will be needed from the civil service as well.

He said they do not have any plans to change the term length of elections from four years to five.

Opposition Leader Mathew Wale has described this as deceptive and something which lacked the mandate of the people.

“This is not a matter for general consultations because this decision will fundamentally affect people’s right to vote in 2023. Since this issue was not raised in the last election, the mandate given to Government is to have elections after four years,” Mr Wale said.

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He said Solomon Islanders cannot be denied their democratic rights.

The Pacific Games was to take place in July however the National Hosting Authority for the 2023 Pacific Games delayed the event by four months due to COVID-19.

Most of the new infrastructure needed for the games is being funded and built by China. Mr Sogavare in his address made the point of highlighting that the two nations had the same bilateral relationship it had with Australia and the United States.

The Solomon Islands government has not indicated when the proposal for the amendment to the constitution would be put to the parliament.

If the government and its coalition partners agree to this, then there is no stopping the elections from being delayed by a year.

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